Mnemonics Guide: Meaning & Examples

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The strategy of learning something valuable can be often ensured with practices like listening and memorizing. But it would be a convenient idea to craft some hack that would make retaining facts easier. Mnemonics are probably the best example of such tips. 

Right from VIBGYOR for remembering rainbow colors to song-based learning, all of these can be perceived under the umbrella of Mnemonics. As having a gripping knowledge about these are crucial for learners, the detailed guide with examples here can assist you for better knowledge gains. 

Mnemonics- A strategy proved successful!

Planets mnemonics

A Mnemonic is a concept that helps you retain a phrase with the help of letters, numbers, or relatable associations which include poems, rhymes, images, and songs. For example, we often use the phrase ‘My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Noodles.’ This is used to remember the 9 planets of the solar system. The initial of each word is for the name of a planet according to its positioning, that is:
My-Mercury | Very-Venus | Excellent-Earth | Mother-Mars | Just-Jupiter | Served-Saturn | Us-Uranus |

Noodles-Neptune

Mnemonic is derived from the Greek word mimnēskesthai which means to remember. Bellezza and Higbee, two researchers[1] stated that Mnemonics is a great memory tool that processes visual imagery, an organization in the brain, and encodes the function. Bellezza insisted on capturing the nuances of single-use and repeated-use techniques.

Great lakes

 A very popular example of a single technique would be the acronym HOMES to remember the Great Lakes(H-Huron, O-Ontario, M-Michigan, E-Erie, S-Superior) while on the other hand, the repeated technique is storing different information for different occasions(the mental map of your house, arranging grocery the same way in the house) The other two techniques are organizational techniques and encoding techniques that should be looked at separately.

In the past, Mnemonics were used mostly to enhance language and reading comprehension. However, later, they were being used for a varied number of concepts. Below we talk about the various researches around Mnemonics where researchers have tested to see if they had any effect on their memory and if they have any long-term usage of these or not? 

What research say

Sometimes it may be arduous to retain information even for a day. This may be a common occurrence while reading and is something that one goes through at a young age. Mnemonics help the child in remembering a long and in-depth analysis text in long-term memory.  Research [2] by Martin Dresler was made on 23 athletes to find the reason behind their naive controls and functional connectivity. It was observed that a six-week mnemonic training was the reason behind it. With these inferences, it was confirmed that mnemonics reshape the brain networks for better memory.  The conclusion and observation part of the report also states that mnemonics help in reorganizing the brain’s functional network organization to enable superior memory performance.

VIBGYOR

Nirmala Ramakrishnan Pillai also made research[3] on how mnemonics boost memory, vocabulary, and creativity, especially in ESL classrooms. This research included how the use of visual, physical, and other mnemonics improved the creativity and memory among students. In the report, it was found that the use of mnemonics can enhance the ability of the students to organize and retrieve information easily. This in turn helps increase the students’ self-esteem as well as their learning. 

How can we create a Mnemonic?

Mnemonics are made to make numbers, historical facts, concepts, etc more interesting and comprehendible. They also make a particular topic retainable in the mind. This is especially for facts and numbers which often are not very easy to remember. 

This way it makes many concepts interesting and understandable. Here are some types of mnemonics crafted distinctly:

1. Music mnemonics

 Music Mnemonics are seen to be the usage of songs, rhyming words, etc. Many children learn the alphabet by singing the “ABC” song and the 50 states song by singing the “50 Nifty United States” song. Marketing and advertisements have been known to use rhyming jingles and songs to make the words memorable.

These ideas also have research-backed proofs.  A study by Gfeller found that when verbal information was sung out to children with compromises they learned it faster. In 1993 Wolfe and Hom conducted research on 5-year-olds who had to sing the phone numbers to memorize the phone numbers.

2. Acronym mnemonics

In the case of acronyms mnemonics, the first letter of a word in the information that is taught is given a name by that letter to retain the names of the person or an object. It can be as simple as DOES- which turns into Daddy Only Eats Sandwiches where the first letter of the word memorized makes the word DOES. Acronyms Mnemonics are helpful in remembering an order or stepwise information that is shortened into an acronym and can stand for the first letter of the words or an acronym that opens into a group of words one needs to memorize

3. Rhyme mnemonics

Rhyme Mnemonics are used to form a rhyme with a short set of words. What is made sure is the end of the word is rhyming with a similar-sounding word making it a pattern that’s easy to remember. Images and Rhymes are Mnemonics that help the brain in encoding information faster. The rhyming words can be as short as a pair but should make sense for you to memorize the information to help you retain the information in your long-term memory.

For example – A rhyme for remembering Alaska and Hawaii’s statehood: “’59 was the date when Alaska and Hawaii became new states.”

4. Image mnemonics

Image Mnemonics is a kind of device that helps you paint a picture of the concept to understand it better. The more abstract the image is, it is all the easier it to remember the information. It can be a mental image or an image drawn in a notebook. For eg: If a student wants to remember a person like the president, they can notice and make note of a prominent feature on their face. The next step is to transform their name into something meaningful by the encoding technique and connect the prominent feature with the new meaning given to their name.

Reading made easy with Mnemonics- A few examples for you!

Comprehending what a Mnemonic is and what unique types of these techniques can be used, a set of instances may polish up your level of understanding. Here are five examples:

  1. It is important to separate a long text into chunks i.e. in small paragraphs and then relating the small paragraph to an object or an experience. Like retelling, associating a part of a text with an object helps in retaining the information that one absorbs through reading.
  2. Rhyming or reading in a sing-song voice or making a rhyming poem out of the text in front of you also helps in retaining the information you gather through the text. For instance to remember days in each month:

September, April, June, and November, 

Have only 30 days to remember.

Rest have 31 days as resolution, 

But February has confusion. 

It has 28 and an affection. 

  1. To remember the PEMDAS rule in math, an acronym mnemonic “Please excuse my dear aunt sally” may be used. In case the pupil may need to remember the planets of the solar system, they may write the name of each planet on fingers on both hands leaving the thumb and remember terrestrial planets (mercury, venus, mars, earth) on one hand and other gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) on other hand. 
  2. An organizational technique to improve reading comprehension with the help of Mnemonics is by making a memory palace. The Method Of Loci is a mnemonic memory strategy to help people remember new information in sequential order. This is all about imagining oneself placing information in a room, and then when needed, going back and visualizing picking it up from the exact same place. 
  3. Visualizing the text and saying it out aloud. The student is asked the question as they read ahead which makes them stop and think about what they are reading also resulting in improvement in the critical-thinking skills of the reader.

Before we wind up…

By now we have realized that the concept of Mnemonics devices came with the purpose to remember which further moved on to polishing the memory of individuals in workspaces or in classrooms. With the above-stated insights, you may better understand what a mnemonic is and how to use them in personal or classroom use. While you may find some popular techniques online, personalized options may also be a great idea. Some learners opt for this technique to retain important and complex information with ease.

References:

  1. Mnemonic Devices: Classification, Characteristics, and Criteria. (1981). Francis S. Bellezza.
  2. Mnemonic Training Reshapes Brain Networks to Support Superior Memory. (2017). MartinDresler. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.003
  3. USING MNEMONICS TO IMPROVE VOCABULARY, BOOST MEMORY AND ENHANCE CREATIVITY IN THE ESL CLASSROOM. (2019). Nirmala Ramakrishnan Pillai.

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